As the school closed for summer vacation, some aspects of the past year were undoubtedly something teachers and parents were prepared to give up.

But there are some people who hope to stick to the benefits. Among them: better communication strategies and tools to make it easier for special education parents and teachers to interact.

Research analyst Lanya McKittrick said that after our current era of distance learning, these courses should be retained for a long time. He is reshaping the public education center to focus on special education and the family.She recently co-authored report On how charter schools can effectively support students with disabilities during the pandemic, and write a blog On this topic.

“If you don’t have good communication, this partnership will really break,” she said, referring in particular to parents and educators. “Many families are under a lot of pressure, grief, or something, so what can we learn from that special community about communication and relationships and the importance of those during this time?”

McKittrick said that during most of the pandemic, families felt that special education was an afterthought. She added that as educators scramble to achieve distance learning, they are sympathetic to the school in the spring of 2020. But McKittrick’s analysis of the school reopening plan for the fall of 2020 shows that there is little mention of special education programs.

McKittrick’s disappointment does not just come from her role as a researcher. She is also the mother of four children, three of whom are deaf and mute.

“I look forward to our IEP team communicating more about what this means to my child,” she said, citing the acronym for personalized education programs. “Because my child has this need, will I go in person earlier than others? What if they have a medical problem and can’t wear a mask? It’s just that there is no answer.”

May 2022 report From the American Foundation for the Blind, studied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students with the following diseases Visual impairmentIt also lists communication as an important part of the overall recommendation and concludes: “Communications among students, family members, vision experts, other educators, and administrators must be continuous, clear, and Personalize according to the needs of students and family members.”

McKittrick found in her own analysis that the schools most successfully serving special education groups are those schools that prioritize communication and understanding family needs. She specifically pointed out those who asked questions, for example, can you use technology? Do you take care of people who are sick? Do you have a safe workplace?

“This is a very positive thing in spring. My own kids said,’This is really cool, my teachers are not like,’have you finished your homework?’ but’how are you today?'” she Say. “The school that took that time is great.”

Leveling the (virtual) playing field

Traditionally, when parents go to school to attend student IEP meetings, which outline the learning goals and support for their children, their experience is not entirely pleasant.

“Normally, power is not balanced, everyone is on the other side of the table, and parents feel that they are alone in this group of people,” McKittrick said. “Zoom removes physical barriers. Everyone is equal.”

The virtual IEP meeting solves the meeting scheduling problems faced by working parents, and even makes it easier for students to participate in their learning plans when their parents log in to the meeting at home.

“For various reasons, they may not want to attend the entire IEP meeting in person and sit there,” she said. “Students are easy to enter [to a virtual meeting], Spend 20 minutes talking about their progress this year. If adults want to continue talking, they can. “

Just one text

When the classroom is transferred from a face-to-face school to a virtual classroom at home, parents can immediately gain first-hand experience of their children’s learning. This proximity adds new vitality to the way parents interact with educators.

“What we saw this year is that there are no barriers. We study at home. The cool thing is that parents feel more empowered,” McKittrick said.

This includes her. One example she gave was how to solve a problem if her seventh grade son came home from school crying home before the pandemic. McKittrick can call the teacher to try to figure out the problem, but “I didn’t see him in the classroom. When I see him at home, I can solve the problem more actively.”

The communication between parents and teachers has also changed dramatically, and as both parties become accustomed to using messaging apps or texting each other, the communication has become better. Tap the “Send” button and send a ping on the other end, and either party can start a conversation in seconds instead of days.

“I talked to a teacher yesterday and he said,’Usually I don’t text my parents at noon. I will see if there is a problem and think about it, and if I really want to contact my parents. But now I’m just Texting,'” McKittrick said. “Parents really like this because you don’t have to think,’That was three days ago. I don’t know what happened to them.'”

Be a better advocate

McKittrick said that the sum of these new developments is that parents and students feel more capable of speaking out for their needs. This is good for children.

“I think eventually they will see that everyone in the team is on the same page, so it is more consistent for the children. They feel better supported, and I think it helps them build self-advocacy and independence, “she says. “They say things that I can’t touch are comfortable, or I need more time to do something.”

Because faster communication allows parents to get involved more frequently and quickly, she finds that they are also more engaged.A school where McKittrick studied Report After the conference was moved to the Internet, the attendance rate of the parent conference increased from 80% to 95%.

“I think parents don’t think their knowledge is valued, but they are the ones who know their children best. In order for them to see [classroom learning] As far as they are concerned, I have talked to many parents who have had “aha” moments,” McKittrick said. “I won’t sit in a secondary role at IEP meetings anymore, because I have witnessed this firsthand . “

McKittrick said schools should ensure that as the classroom transitions to face-to-face teaching, special education teachers have time to maintain open channels of communication with their parents.Parents also need options to keep them engaged, such as continuing with Virtual IEP meeting.

“How do we use something from remote work so that we don’t go back to the past, which is the way of the past?” she said. “I think we have learned a lot because we are communicating, problem-solving and personalizing, and we are more flexible in special education than in the past.”

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